After Greek coastguard boats fired warning shots at the Comorian-flagged merchant vessel Anatolian on September 10 in international waters in the Aegean, tensions between Athens and Ankara continue to mount.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou last week visited the Aegean islands, including Kastellorizo, Rhodes and Carpathos, two kilometers from Turkey. “Greece seeks constructive relations with its neighbors in accordance with international law,” she said at an event marking the 79th anniversary of Kastellorizo’s liberation in World War II. “However, if necessary, he will effectively defend his integrity and sovereign rights,” she added.
Speaking at a symposium in Rhodes, Sakellaropoulou denounced Ankara’s claims, saying: “As Turkish provocations escalate in Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands, making false and unsubstantiated claims and challenging cause the sovereign rights of our country, the scientific debate becomes even more important on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The islands of Rhodes, Carpathos and Kastellorizo are supposed to be demilitarized according to the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. However, there are armored and infantry units, land and air bases on these islands, in addition to the forces of maintenance of order provided for in the Treaty.
“Greece’s provocative rhetoric and actions that have heightened tensions in the Sea of Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean have turned into a security threat to our country,” Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop said.
In June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu threatened to invade the islands, saying “the sovereignty of these islands will be discussed” if Greece does not stop arming them. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said recently: “Your occupation of the islands does not bind us. We will do what is necessary when the time comes. As they say, we could come suddenly one evening.
The historic conflicts between the Turkish and Greek bourgeoisies, inherited from the 20th century, have intensified in recent months amid NATO’s war with Russia in Ukraine.
Fearing the potential consequences for the Turkish bourgeoisie of NATO‘s war aims in Ukraine (change of regime in Moscow, dismemberment of Russia and its subordination to the imperialist powers), Ankara does not participate in the sanctions against Russia. He tried to negotiate an end to the war. On the other hand, Ankara sees Greece’s role as an important NATO military base against Russia as a threat, having developed strategic military ties with the United States and France.
NATO considers Turkey‘s growing trade, energy and military ties with Russia to be unacceptable to NATO. Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system led Washington to impose sanctions on Turkey. Moreover, in response to a potential US refusal to sell F-16 fighters to Turkey, President Erdoğan recently said, “It’s not just America that sells fighter jets around the world. England, France and Russia sell it. So it is possible to get them from everywhere.
The possibility of Russia using Turkey to evade Western sanctions is of growing concern to American and European powers. “The United States and the EU are stepping up pressure on Turkey to crack down on non-compliance with Russian sanctions, fearing that the country’s banking sector is a potential backdoor for illicit finance,” the official said. FinancialTimes written on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Greece received its first two F-16 military jets from the United States last week as part of a $1.5 billion program to modernize its fighter fleet. The AP wrote: “The two F-16s on display at Tanagra Air Base northwest of Athens are the first of 83 to be refitted with electronics, radar and advanced weapons capabilities by the end of 2027.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris early last week, said: “We are responding to challenges with preparation, and to those who threaten us – and who say they will come down on our islands suddenly one night – we say we are waiting for them in the light of day, where it will be seen who has international law on their side.
Underlining France’s full support for Greece, Macron said: “I would like to reiterate it despite the repeated provocations and the questioning of Greece’s sovereignty: our support and our determination here are complete.
Tensions have risen further since Mitsotakis’ speech to the US Congress last May. There, Mitsotakis said, “Greece extends the hand of friendship to its neighbours. But we will not tolerate violations of our sovereignty, violations of our sovereign rights and flights over the Greek islands, which must stop immediately. I ask you, members of Congress, to consider the danger of further instability on NATO’s southeastern flank when making decisions on arms sales to the region.
He added: “I ask you, members of Congress, to remember a wound that Hellenism has suffered for 48 years and which is still unhealed. I refer to the aggression in Cyprus and the violent division of the island. No one will ever accept two separate states in Cyprus. Mitsotakis received a standing ovation in the US Congress.
In response to Mitsotakis’ speech in Washington, Erdoğan said, “For me, Mitsotakis no longer exists. We go with politicians with personality and honor. Let Mitsotakis think from now on. The United States is unlikely to make a decision based on his mouth.
However, the US State Department on Friday announced the lifting of the arms embargo on Cyprus for fiscal year 2023. US military bases in Greece have grown alongside the NATO military deployment against Russia , even as Ankara faced US sanctions for its military ties to Moscow.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the US sanctions decision, saying: “We strongly condemn the broadening of the scope of the decision taken by the United States in September 2020 to lift the arms embargo against of the Greek Cypriot administration. We fully support the reaction of the authorities of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) regarding the said decision. »
He continued: “This decision, which contradicts the principle of equality of both parties on the island, and which will further strengthen the intransigence of the Greek Cypriot side, will negatively affect efforts to settle the Cyprus issue; and this will lead to an arms race on the island, undermining peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. We call on the United States to reconsider this decision and pursue a balanced policy toward both sides of the island.
The bourgeois press in Greece and Turkey uses nationalist rhetoric to promote the reactionary geopolitical interests of their own governments and to divide the working class. The possibility that this chauvinistic demagogy will escalate into a military confrontation between these two NATO member states is very real. NATO’s war against Russia in Ukraine and rising military tensions in the Balkans and Central Asia are adding fuel to the fire.
The only way to stop a devastating war is through the revolutionary mobilization of the international working class on the basis of a socialist program unifying workers across national borders. This requires the building of socialist equality parties in Greece, Turkey and throughout the region.